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‘Anchor baby’: A conceptual explanation for pejoration

Journal of Pragmatics
DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2013.08.007
  • Conceptual Blending Theory
  • Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Associative Processes
  • Anchor Baby
  • Immigration
  • Law
  • Linguistics


Abstract In this paper, I offer a detailed account of the pejorative nature of the term ‘anchor baby’, an increasingly common phrase used to frame the children of undocumented immigrants within the United States. Using cognitive linguistic methodology within the Critical Discourse Analysis paradigm [Chilton, Missing links in mainstream CDA: Modules, blends and the critical instinct. In Wodak, R. and Chilton, P. (Eds.) A New Agenda in (Critical) Discourse Analysis: Theory, Methodology and Interdisciplinarity. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 19–53, 2005], I explore language from both sides of the immigration debate to show, step by step, how a seemingly simple compound can subconsciously introduce or affirm deep value-laden judgments about both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. As such, my explanation rests on the theory of Conceptual Blending [G. Fauconnier, M. Turner, The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind's Hidden Complexities. Basic Books, New York, 2002] in which multiple domains of knowledge including those of seafaring, immigration, and family structure blend together giving rise to a new (and offensive) concept of procreation as a tool to gain legal status, resources, and permanent ties to the U.S. I show that hidden meaning and reasoning, instinctively labeled as offensive by many, but often characterized in vague terms, can in fact be systematically described given the right conceptual framework. I propose the theory of Conceptual Blending can be utilized as a uniquely effective tool to dissect associative processes in the study of pragmatics.

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